Month: December 2014

The Kalash— Pakistan’s Dionysiac White Tribe’s Origins, part II of II.

In 2008 the Macedonian Institute for Strategic Researches organized a visit by Hunza Prince Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Princess Rani Atiqa as descendants of the Alexandran army.”

The Kalash have been claimed as Illyrian by Albanians, Slavs by Russians, Alpine shepherds by Italians, Alexander’s children by Athenians and Englishmen by the likes of Rudyard Kipling. Some Pakistani anthropologists, rushing in where angels fear to tread, have proclaimed them as Aryans! That is tricky terrain, especially for South Asians, since Aryan is a Sanskrit word that refers to behavior and deportment and not ethnicity, but more later in my article on the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). Surprisingly, the Alexander connection leads to Athens rather than Macedonia, allowing an overlap of  jus soli and jus sanguinis, challenging legal minds. Nobody has paused to wonder if the Kalash could fulfill an Indian agenda or at least dangle from a Christmas tree.

By far, the Greek Origin Theory (GOT) is the most popular.

The premise of the GOT is based on:

  1. Appearance
  2. Belief system and Customs: drinking alcohol, dancing, open wooden coffins, sitting on chairs.
  3. Fragments from historians’ collection of hearsay and suppositions.
  4. DNA
  5. Language

Let’s take a look at these five premises point by point

  1. Appearance. If all fair skinned and light-eyed Indians must have come from Eurasia, then all swarthy Europeans must have gone from India. Since Alexander was a Macedonian and not a Greek, and the hard-core of his army Macedonian, and since only 10% Macedonians are blond and light-eyed, this is reduced to a 10% probability. Alexander did employ Greeks, but there too, the blond hair and light eyes are a one-fifth minority. Many Greeks are swarthy enough to be North Indian or Mediterranean. Arachosians, Bactrians, Parapamisadae, Sogdians Scythian and Indians also constituted a large part of Alexander’s army. Why only the blond and blue-eyed soldiers would have deserted is a mystery. Nordic peoples are known for their ferocity and loyalty evidenced in their tradition of the Comitatus: when their chief fell in battle, his inner war-band did not get demoralized but fought ferociously to the bitter end. The chances of such people deserting are very low.

 The Western Hindu Kush to the edge of the Eastern Himalayas yields a bountiful harvest of fair skins, and light colored hair and eyes, profitably harvested by Bollywood.

The Greeks from the islands are usually much darker than the Greeks from the mainland, and just like the Kalash, they build houses with flat roofs. But they are swarthy and brown or dark-haired. Had the Kalash been of some northern European ethnic brand, they would have built sloping roofs! And if they are Greek flat-roof builders, then they shouldn’t be blond and blue-eyed.


The two pictures to the right are typical of the inhabitants of Northern Pakistan and India who are not attributed Greco-Macedonian-Illyrian-Italian  descent.;;

2. Belief system and Customs such as drinking alcohol, dancing, open wooden coffins, sitting on chairs. The Kalash religion is syncretic and polytheistic, its pantheon including peaks, river sources and animals. Every Kalash family has a vineyard and produces its own wine. They bury their dead in open wooden coffins and their women are not cloistered. They don’t squat on their haunches, sit on chairs but have flat roofed houses in the Karakorams. These characteristics can be found in many of the non-Semitic belief systems of varied ethnologies and indeed among ethno-cultural groups in India itself! That includes the Kalash’s horse reverence, the most ancient and most structured of which is the ancient Hindu Ashvamedha, with precise rituals and liturgy documented in the Yajurveda, one of the sacred Hindu documents dated to around 1800 BC, well  before Alexander the Great. That, therefore, is a custom indigenous to India, even though the Irish and the Norse are known to have practiced its derivatives.

Ashvamedha: the horse sacrifice of Hindu antiquity

3. Fragments from historians’ collection of hearsay and suppositions. In the Karakoram mountains of India, the sight of ivy growing around the hills of Nysa convinced Alexander’s army that the city had been founded by Dionysus. According to Arrian, the Greek historian and philosopher of the 2nd-century Roman period, Alexander’s soldiers “… wept … eagerly made wreaths … crowned themselves … and were transported with Bacchic frenzy.” In Arrian’s history, the citizens of Nysa begged for clemency by claiming to be the descendants of Dionysus. Making this claim when their lives were threatened is no proof of Greek descent! It is worthwhile to remember that ivy is as native to India as it is to Macedonia, but such misunderstandings, like that of the word Aryan, can lead to decisions of momentous import.

Furthermore, Philostratus (born 172 AC) writes that Indians near the Indus believed that Dionysus was the son of the river Indus and the Theban was his disciple, which would make the Dionysiac cult an Indian export and not a consequence of Alexander’s failed attempt to conquer India.

4. DNA. Most DNA studies show no evidence that either proves kinship between the Kalash and Greeks, or points to a European origin.

5. Language. Just like Kashmiri and other languages spoken in the Karakorams, the Kalash language is part of the Dardic group, included in the Indo-Iranian sub-group of the Indo-European group. Asko Parpola, professor emeritus of Indology and South Asian Studies at the University of Helsinki believes the Dardic languages are directly descended from the Rigvedic dialect of Vedic Sanskrit.


Dardic script on the left, Vedic Sanskrit script on the right.;

In fact, by the 4th century BC, when Alexander attempted to invade India, Kalash culture stretched from Jalalabad in present day Afghanistan to the Indus in India, an area of roughly 68,000 square kilometres. They were known as Assakenoi (Ashvakas in Sanskrit), ancestors of ethnic Afghans and Pashtuns who fought against  Alexander. They could only have been descended from Alexander’s soldiers if they had possessed a time capsule.

Ever since Judge Jones’ 1786 Discourse to the Asiatic Society in which he suggested that Sanskrit, Greek and Latin languages had a common root, the relationship between Indian and European peoples has been so variously interpreted as to have become a hotly contested arena today. Max Muller pointed out “how violent a shock was given by the discovery of Sanskrit to prejudices most deeply ingrained in the mind of every educated man.”

The Asiatic Society

The Asiatic Society;

The Mahabharta, conservatively dated to around 1900 BC, provides a strong lead to the possible origin of the Kalash through their appearance and habits. The Mahabharta mentions Jatrikas and Madrakas, both known as Vahikas or Bahika from the names of two demons living in the river Vipasa known as Beas today that flows in the Punjab.

River Beas

These people were fair-skinned, wore blankets, drank wine, ate cow’s flesh with garlic and boiled barley and delighted in indecent talk and acts. Their women, overcome with wine, danced naked and called to one another “O’ ill-fated one – husband-slayer”. These last two insults are still used by the Kalasha and all North Indians and Pakistani Punjabis, though the women do not get drunk and dance naked — not any that I’ve heard of, but they do dance when they can! In any case, as my forthcoming article on the Aryan Invasion Theory will postulate, India had people of different appearances living within the same space.

The answer to the question of Kalash origins remains in suspension just like my origins and yours. Ignorance and obscurity lie beyond every individual and group’s last-known ancestor. Why the poor Kalash have been selected to compensate for such ignorance is more enigmatic than their origins. It is a conundrum to be solved individually on a journey of self-knowledge. At its destination, the origins of the Kalash, like those of all fair skinned and light eyed South Asians — Kashmiris, Himachal Pradeshis, Pashtuns, Jaduns, Sudhans and Abbasis — fade to irrelevance.

The Kalash, however, remain in close-up, seeking the benefits of modern life without sacrificing their beliefs, customs and traditions, struggling to avoid becoming everybody’s Christmas decoration.

Highly recommended further reading: Riders on the Wind, by Salman Rashid

Next: wait for The Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT)

Ancient India

The Kalash— Pakistan’s Dionysiac White Tribe.

Part I of II

The Kalash are a fair skinned, often fair-haired and light eyed people nestled in three valleys in the heart of the soaring peaks of Pakistan’s Karakorams. They are considered unique by virtue of their belief system — a theological oddity in an Islamic fastness. In the 4th century when Alexander attempted to invade India, these Dardic people stretched from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to the Indus, an area roughly 68,000 kilometres. They are now confined to about a dozen villages in three valleys, with a total population of fewer than four thousand. By the 14th century, most of the Kalash had chosen Islam over polytheism, wine-making and other pagan traditions.

So the Kalash are not a ‘lost’ tribe but just the remnants of a people who chose Islam over their ancestral religion. Kalash, means those who wear the black robe. Their ancestry is embroiled in intersecting theories that boost fanciful personal agenda.

The version that seems to have fixated the world’s fancy is that deserters from Alexander the Great’s army settled in the valleys and the Kalash are their progeny — or perhaps even Alexander’s himself,  although that would make them swarthy Macedonians, a tad disappointing. Rudyarad Kipling’s The Man Who Would be King further fed this childlike desire to solve a puzzle or find a treasure exclusive to the finder. For further reading you may consult Dan Brown’s bank account!

More on this in Part II, but whatever their ancestry, the Kalash are certainly an endangered minority.

As polytheists, their culture is distinguished by a pantheon of deities appeased through animal sacrifices. They grow and make their own wine which they consider sacred. Seasonal festivities are celebrated with wine, music and dancing. Free-striding, bare-faced Kalash women in their headdresses intricately woven with cowrie and crowned with multi-hued feathers are believed to be part-fairy. They choose their husbands if they so wish.

Shepherds and subsistence farmers by tradition, tourism and trade are nudging the Kalash into a cash-based economy. And they don’t really mind. Roads, cell phones, clinics and schools are bringing them out of their isolation. Yet, Kalash who have managed to integrate themselves into the Pakistani system without giving up their belief system are a rarity.

They are not, after all, a species to be preserved in a zoo. Breaking the vicious circle of poverty and ignorance through education and socio-economic mobility is probably a better guarantee against cultural encroachment than half-hearted legislation that is high on spin and low on application.

The Kalash’s descent from Alexander the Great is a romantic story that reels in tourists. Even though a DNA test failed to establish  a connection, the Greek Foreign Ministry’s Hellenic Association has been aiding the Kalash for quite some time on the basis that charity begins at home. The effort is laudable even if they got the wrong address like American commandos did in Yemen on November 25th.

But then, us homo sapiens are prone to believe what they choose.

Thinking of the Kalash as lost Greeks is an enjoyable thought that feeds upon itself.

Video – The Kalash People:

 Wait for Part II: the origins of the Kalash

The American Dream and the Living Nightmare

Azam Gill

According to the US State Department’s 2012 International Religious Freedom Report, “Christians were a leading target of societal discrimination, abuse, and violence in some parts of the world.” As an instrument of diplomacy, the State Department’s  choice of “some” over ‘many’ or ‘most’ is hardly surprising. And rightly so. Were it not for diplomacy, the world would be an even more violent demonic playground.

As such, from the downgraded semantics employed by professional diplomats and their staff, it is possible to gauge the real extent and intensity of persecution suffered by Christian minorities outside of Western democracies and some Latin American countries. The oppression of Christian minorities barely flits on the periphery of media interest.

Mainly, there is a general belief that all minority Christians are rice bowl converts — the residue of 19th century western colonialism. For the United States to use its power and influence for good…

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British Curry at the Crossroads— David Cameron at risk!

The Britsh Curry Oscar

The British have gone into a tailspin over the future of their curry quality which is now hovering over the United Kingdom’s immigration policy.

On December 1, 2014, David Cameron, whose government has further tightened visa restrictions on curry chefs from South Asia, addressed the gathering at the British Curry Awards, known as the Oscars of British Curry, by video: “I’m sorry I can’t be with you tonight,” Cameron said. “Not just because I’m missing out on the chicken tikka masala I hear you’ve got on the menu … .” He was, of course, referring to Britain’s national dish that superseded fish and chips several years ago.

He might actually — and most of his cabinet — be shortly complaining of a quality shortfall in British curry.

A dearth of curry cooks has put curry houses at risk. Chefs have participated in ministerial level talks to ease the 2006 visa restrictions on curry chefs from outside the European Economic Area. The present government has suggested that British chefs be trained to cook curries.

If it were that simple!

Which doesn’t mean a curry is that complicated.

It means that most learners would have no background of eating artisanal curries, which is one way of describing home cooking. They’ll have to start from scratch while the South Asian learners will show a lead of fifteen to twenty years — of discernment, matured taste-buds, instinctive quality assessment, goal-setting and not technique.

So when a British born student starts cooking lessons in an institution, we’re looking at a trainee who was brought up on spotted dick, toad in the hole, roasts, pasties and pies. This solemn individual might not know how to cook, but has well-developed taste-buds screeching good and bad signals to the brain — except for the unfortunates brought up on twinkies.

The curry taste-buds of this earnest seeker of culinary oriental mysteries in a curry institute are a blank canvas waiting for curry powder, curry pastes and other shortcuts to be validated as the modernization of South Asian cuisine. The bewhiskered colonial majors who concocted and flogged their curry powders to a docile public would be delightedly chuckling in their well-kept graves in South Asia.

So take heed, Mr. Cameron. You are treading on thin ice (or curry?) here — one slip and you’ll be up to your ears in spicy mediocrity, your Richard James suit from Savile Row ruined forever.

You might be content with your bangers and mash, but what about your poor voters? Are they really going to be content with a pint of lager and chicken tikka masala that sucks? Somewhere down the line you owe yourself a re-election, and not playing cricket is unhealthy for the swing vote at the cost of temporary appeasement, the Munich of curry.

Columbus serendipitously reached America, following his Indian Dream of dominating the spice trade. That happened, and turmeric and cardamoms changed the world balance of power.

But the dream was hijacked by the George Washington gang’s dangle of the pursuit of happiness in front of migrant hopefuls to create the American Dream. The British seized the opportunity, acquired India, the Biggest Jewel in their Crown and owned the Indian Dream. Through curry houses, they still do.

And if you reduce their Indian Dream to mediocrity, they will have their say. So book a table at Veeraswamy’s on Regent Street. Savor your chicken tikka masala in opulence and have a think.

Bon appétit, Monsieur le Premier Ministre!

Friedman Taking the Strategic Intelligence Model to Moscow

General Alexander Meigs Haig, Jr, US Cavalry, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star with oak leaf cluster and the Purple Heart, served as President Ronald Reagan’s  Secretary of State and Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford’s Chief of Staff. Reportedly, he disdained CIA briefs for being of less value than The New York Times. The chief merit of these intelligence briefs, he is said to have believed, was that they emanated from secret sources.

It is thus intelligent to excuse intelligence personnel  from being intelligentAzam Gill.

Taking the Strategic Intelligence Model to Moscow

“There are causes for conflict other than ideology. The United States has an interest in preventing the emergence of a new European hegemon. The Russians must maintain the buffers that sapped the strength of Napoleon and Hitler. Neither interest is frivolous, and it is difficult to imagine how both can be satisfied.

Strategic forecasting is that class of intelligence that is most alien to intelligence services: events that cannot be understood through sources … a form of intelligence best practiced outside of government and state intelligence services.

Excessive sophistication and excessive love of the secret will hide the strategic processes underway.”— George Friedman

Read the full Stratfor article by George Friedman: “<a href=””>Taking the Strategic Intelligence Model to Moscow</a> is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

Something to Share: our enduring love story, by Peggy & Al Schlorholtz

” …  enduring, gripping, enriching …”

Something to Share by Peggy & Al Schlorholtz reveals a delightfully harmonious intersection of literary genres— love saga, autobiography, travelogue, adventure, multiculturalism — within a lifetime of loving service. Multilayered perceptions challenge stereotypes of meaning and raise the reader’s self-awareness.

The love story started with a tenth grade Iowa beauty flinging an orange at Al Schlorholtz to grab his attention in the Study Hall. And grab it she did, till the ends of the earth, starting from rural Iowa to Princeton to Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Nepal.

A love story of epic dimensions that goes beyond romance to include the exotic peoples of faraway lands.

The Schlorholtzes were clearly multicultural well before the advent of the term as it is generally understood these days. The sub-text of this remarkable work is in the mise en abyme tradition retrieved from heraldry by André Gide for the purposes of critical analysis. It leaves no doubt that despite himself, the author’s crystalline insight into a pivotal geostrategic environment is piercingly unique.

For its penetrating understanding of South Asia, Something to Share should be compulsory reading for the blow-dried inductees into the US State Departmant’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, just as Mumtaz Shahnawaz’s The Heart Divided was avidly read by missionaries of the Schlorholtzes’ caliber. Perhaps that, but certainly the clarity of their Christian faith made it hard to believe that they were actually missionaries, as with love and without any fuss they served others.

For the discerning reader, the fact that a one-star general’s phone call was required to clear the Schlorholtzes household furniture going from Pakistan to India speaks volumes. That Pakistan had a Christian general is startling. The authors do not state the obvious, offering adventure after adventure to be retrieved by the reader in quest of the truth.

That the authors state the facts and withhold their opinion is an example for the kind of contemporary journalism that appears to excel in opinion over fact!

And that is the skill with which the intersecting molecules of this remarkable narrative sustain each other.

The missionary professor and his wife’s life story is laudably free of religious clichés or evangelical rhetoric, while carrying veins of mineable secular abundance. The Christian message is implicit in acts of selfless devotion.;;

The Schlorholtzes lived through Ayub Khan and Zia-ul-Haq’s dictatorships, survived two wars that included getting bombed and watching aerial dog-fights over their landscaped campus home known for its gracious hospitality. They survived Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s socialism while their daughters studied at Radcliff with Benazir Bhutto whom they remember as ‘Pinky’!

Something to Share revives the forgotten tradition of the likes of Reverends James Gardner and John Williams,  Margaret Prentice, Adomain Judson, William Carey and John and Ida Scudder, who continued enriching lives by penning their unique experiences during retirement.

La difference Schlorholtz is that the professor’s legendary wit pervades the manuscript in Balzacian brush-strokes.

So do settle down with your tipple of choice in your favourite armchair and let Al & Peggy Schlorholtz work their magic on a cold winter’s day.